Various aspects of life are concerned within the domain of philosophy that can assist people in their personal and professional lives. Philosophy is a discipline that explores relatively abstract things and provides a basis for decision-making (Hood, 2021). The field of philosophy is divided into the study of science, mind, ethics, and religion (Hood, 2021). In particular, ethics, or moral philosophy, examines the rightness of potential courses of action in connection to specific virtuous principles and values (Hood, 2021). Moral philosophy is closely connected to nursing due to helping nurses understand the world and themselves and guiding their practice.
Ethics asks questions and provides answers regarding appropriate actions. Nurses constantly encounter diverse situations in which the professionals strive to do what is right (Hood, 2021). Accordingly, moral philosophy can direct a person’s conduct based on its different theories. For instance, consequentialism suggests that the most honorable act is the one that leads to desirable outcomes, whereas virtue ethics proposes that a deed is righteous if it contributes to an individual’s virtuous character (Scott, 2022). In comparison, moral absolutism is a view stating that certain types of behavior are intrinsically right or wrong, like stealing representing the latter kind (Scott, 2022). On the other hand, moral relativism implies that righteousness depends on a specific culture and period (Scott, 2022). Consequently, ethics can aid nurses in determining whether a certain decision or deed is morally acceptable.
Ethics can be a starting point for nurse professionals to develop their own ideologies. Individual nursing philosophies help the specialists formulate their understandings and perceptions of different worldviews, and the principles of moral philosophy offer a foundation for making logical and ethical decisions (Deschenes & Kunyk, 2019; Hood, 2021). While personal ideologies may change throughout the course of one’s life, they are based on the exploration of beliefs and values (Hood, 2021). Individual nursing philosophies are anticipated to reflect conduct that is beneficial to all humankind, but the specialization allows combining distinct approaches to morality (Hood, 2021). Therefore, ethics is necessary for a nurse to determine a course of action that corresponds with their personal and occupational principles.
An example of how moral philosophy aids nurses in their practice concerns overcoming difficulties. Nurses often face ethical dilemmas, which may induce moral distress and lead to such feelings as anxiety, worthlessness, and despair (Deschenes & Kunyk, 2019). Resolving moral predicaments is challenging because, in addition to respecting patients’ rights, nurses have to consider legal and institutional standards within the healthcare system (Hood, 2021). Therefore, nurses must address all problems thoroughly, and to do so, they can refer to the ethical decision-making process, which comprises care, principalism, and contextualism (Hood, 2021). The approach involves such steps as the identification of a problem and morally relevant facts, the evaluation of the matter, and the examination of possible actions (Hood, 2021). Accordingly, the tenets of moral philosophy analyze how a person may behave in a particular situation while concerning such emotions as guilt, shame, or hope (Deschenes & Kunyk, 2019). Ethics recognizes people’s feelings but also encourages nurses to choose a deed that would be the most advantageous in relation to multiple factors involved in a dilemma.
In addition to helping individual nurses in their practice, moral philosophy presents certain disciplinary standards generally utilized within the profession. Many countries have ethical codes that illustrate professional commitment regarding morality and present guidance for virtuous situations (Deschenes & Kunyk, 2019). The medical community, including specialists in the nursing field, typically follows bioethics doctrines oriented toward healthcare-related issues (Deschenes & Kunyk, 2019). Bioethics suggests that healthcare providers should act in accordance with the principles of autonomy, non-maleficence, justice, and beneficence (Deschenes & Kunyk, 2019). For instance, the latter tenet requires doing good and acting in a way that would benefit a patient (Hood, 2021). Nonetheless, some people argue that bioethics does not fully reflect real-life situations, and several countries employ more ethical standards than the mentioned four (Deschenes & Kunyk, 2019). However, moral philosophy is widely utilized because nurses are expected to be righteous agents responsible for providing virtuous care (Deschenes & Kunyk, 2019). Moreover, philosophers within the nursing profession are anticipated to analyze the medical sphere and highlight consideration for the greatest good of humankind (Hood, 2021). Therefore, moral philosophy is meant to guide practice for all nurse specialists.
To conclude, the study of ethics is connected to nursing by helping nurses understand the world and by directing their work. While philosophy explores different aspects of life, such as science and religion, moral philosophy is the area that reflects nursing most sufficiently. Because nurses constantly face challenging situations, including ethical dilemmas, they have to make decisions based on what is best for patients but also corresponds with institutional and legal norms. Therefore, nurses have to develop individual philosophies to know their personal beliefs and values and follow commonly accepted ethical principles to comprehend what is expected from them in various circumstances. Overall, ethics, or moral philosophy, is utilized to assist nurses in acting confidently and virtuously.
Deschenes, S., & Kunyk, D. (2019). Situating moral distress within relational ethics. Nursing Ethics, 27(3), 767-777.
Hood, L. J. (2021). Leddy and Pepper’s conceptual bases of professional nursing (10th ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Scott, C. (2022). Moral philosophy: The 5 most important ethical theories. The Collector. Web.